With poor possession numbers, an inexperienced roster and uncertainty between the pipes, fans waited all year for Calgary to falter — especially with the reigning Stanley Cup champions nipping at their heels. (Not to mention the fact that their best player, Mark Giordano, is out for the season ).
But hockey isn’t played on paper; it’s a beautifully unpredictable sport, one that doesn’t always make sense. So here we are, in the second round of the playoffs, and the Flames — picked by most to be a basement dweller — are 12 victories away from winning it all.
To come close to reaching that goal, they’ll need their young stars — Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, in particular — to perform at an elite level against Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen. And they’ll need their own goalie, Jonas Hiller, a former Duck, to stand tall in net.
Defensively, they’ll have to contain Anaheim’s dangerous top six — a group led by veteran Corey Perry. The 29-year-old winger notched seven points (three goals, four assists) in the Ducks’ first round series against the Winnipeg Jets.